A Lesson from 'The Snail & The Whale'





There is many a lesson to learn from our children; from their sheer fearlessness to their immense ability to accomplish…simply because they believe in themselves. I find that being caught up in ‘adulting’ allows us to forget the simple reasons as to why we make the decisions we do. I had an epiphany about changes in my life to date; whilst reading a children’s storybook. (To those still passing out while reading to their kids, rest assured I still have those nights too). Yet before I dive into deep philosophical meanings involving snails and whales; some background is needed.




Hubby and I have recently left my corporate jobs to become work-from-home parents. Together with our two kids and three dogs we’ve moved provinces. Our goal: to seek out (what we consider to be) a better environment for raising our “mini-mes” and to focus our energy and time on the causes we find to be most beneficial to fulfilling a purpose in this lifetime. We’ve left the shackles of corporate work schedules to live the life currently popularized by European and American millennials, the new global dream. Here we are, six months in; each working on our own passion projects and side hustles from the comfort of our home at our own pace. Many friends have admired our ability to take risk and to take the leap to try to do what we’ve always said we would. The past few months have been about moving-trucks and unpacking a million boxes, adjusting to new school routines and drawing up a plan for my day to ensure I wouldn’t spend 24hours in my pyjamas. There have been a multitude of changes for all of us and the biggest question on everyone’s mind is: Was it worth it?




For those who can’t bear to read any further, the short answer is: Yes! But I’m sure the line of questioning hereafter, shall be: HOW did you do it?




|       “…the single most defining factor which allows you to eventually break your shackles - Your appetite for risk"                                        |




The harsh truth, is that there is no magical five step plan. The South African economy, laws, taxes and legislation are vastly different to those of our European and American friends. No two individuals, couples or families are the same. We are each at various different stages in our lives at present. Those with families are naturally going to be the most risk adverse. And here is the single most defining factor which allows you to eventually break your shackles - Your appetite for risk. Here is where I want to introduce you to the wonderful story which sums up my feelings about making the biggest decision my family has ever had to make thus far.




As I read my little Nia her bedtime story the other night, I was able to find the most beautiful metaphor in my favorite Julia Donaldson book, “The Snail and the Whale”. While I’m sure the talented Julia wrote the story with little people in mind, this children’s story  has allowed me to not only reflect but to perhaps also provide some advice for those of you out there also keen to break the shackles.




|       “…the whole reason for accepting your side dish of risk, is that you are present when the moment arises…”    |




For those unfamiliar with Julia or her previous works such as “Room on a broom”, or the wonderful “Gruffalo”; allow me to give you a short summary of “The Snail and the Whale” (Attention: Spoiler Alert ). The snail, as with most of Julia’s characters, is restless and different compared to the rest of her snail friends. She does not simply want to continue being in one place. She wants to explore and so she devises a rather ingenious method to asking for a lift, by writing a snail trail message on the rocks. Her request is answered by a blue humpback whale, who takes her exploring.




She is as much in awe as she is frightened by some of the experiences she has whilst traveling with the whale. Yet the true heart of the story is delivered when the whale encounters some trouble, unable to help itself, the whale is now reliant on the snail’s help.  The snail is now called to action. This is the best description to what I can give of the HOW. Elon Musk speaks about explorers who gave up the known in favour of the unknown. When we leave that comfort zone, there is an awakening to so much more than we might have ever been aware of whilst padded from the outside world by inflated salaries and suburban living.




| “…the question should always be: “Am I fulfilling my meaning?” |




Whilst being wondrous and all sorts of adjectives, this new way of living is still terrifying. But the whole reason for accepting your side dish of risk, is that you are present when the moment arises to make a difference and to grow as a person. Even when our contributions seem minimal, when we seem insignificant in the holistic picture; we have to become the children we once were. The children who believed in wonderment and in ourselves and our ability to accomplish with sheer fearlessness.




For me, the question should always be: “Am I fulfilling my meaning?”


Do you answer with “Yes, absolutely!” or “Yeah, I suppose…” Based on your response you should then have a fairly good idea of what needs to happen next. Are you the snail with the itchy foot, even when all the others tell you to be still?